Here’s how one person made it and what he suggests to others considering the same move.
Five years ago, Owen Boller decided to enter the real-estate arena. He’s now CEO of Boller Properties in the Sullivan Catskills, Upstate New York, and a luxury real estate advisor at Douglas Elliman in New York City. And get this: he’s only 24 years old! “I was always obsessed with real estate,” he says. After graduating from high school, he ditched college and dove into a real estate renovation project where he painted an entire house by hand. Owen recognized that he liked meeting new people, an essential to attracting new listings. Others encouraged him to try the field, so he studied the market, took the licensing exam, and joined a large brokerage firm. Shortly thereafter, he established his own brokerage catering to the second home market just two hours from Manhattan. His biggest hurdle in the beginning was procrastination. Nevertheless, his first sale was a $25,000 mobile home, and he subsequently sold a total of 30 homes through cold calls, calling expired listings, and knocking on doors. Since then, he has not looked back.
Following are seven tips Boller recommends to others who want to make the segue, even if they’re older and have come to real estate from another profession. For many, it represents a second or third career.
Think about why you want to join the field. Decide what your real motivation is, Boller says. “If you’re just getting into it for money, that’s not a good enough reason. It takes a long time for the money to come unless you’re well connected,” he says. His main reasons were to meet people from all walks of life and help them find a home. “I love talking to new people every day, and understanding what they want. This comes from their deepest emotions way down, which I like to discover,” he adds.
Get the best possible training. This will help you avoid a lot of first mistakes, Boller says. Good training can be achieved through taking classes. He took them in photography and in business. He also read a lot of books related both to business, real estate, and entrepreneurship. Then, he literally started knocking on doors and cold calling people to begin to gain their trust and listings.
Carefully choose your first professional connection. Because of an advertisement he spied for a real estate brokerage, he went with that firm, took a class it required, then a test, and started working for it. He stayed there only briefly, leaving after trusting his gut instincts that it wasn’t the right fit for him. He urges anybody to follow their gut, too, in deciding if it’s the right group of people to work with, the right type of listings and other essentials that should make work a joy and potential success rather than drudgery. Often, finding the right firm also means finding a good team to join within it.
Find an experienced, helpful mentor. This can be another crucial step in learning the business in a one-on-one basis. By finding a sympathetic, smart person to work under, who’s also a good teacher, you learn faster, mastering what to spot when scouting listings, what’s important in a listing presentation, what should be covered in contract negotiations, and what types of questions to ask. You should also be getting responses back in a timely manner. “You learn the ropes and how to avoid making impulsive decisions, which many people new to a business may do until they’ve had adequate experience,” he says.
Develop a specialty. This is a step he suggests deciding early in the process, preferably within the first month or two, rather than later, Boller says. He became a specialist in certain New York City neighborhoods—learning who lives there, how demographics have changed and continue to change, what amenities are expected, what the common charges are for different condos and cooperative apartments and brownstones, what neighborhood services exist, and which don’t. Along the way, he added a specialty in working with resales, foreign buyers, those who seek a second home and especially a pied-à-terre. The most important thing he learned, he says, was to stay authentic, and build a brand around his personality and values he could offer to others. Others become specialists in working with senior residents or maybe flipping properties. The latter requires understanding the tipping point of when an area is at its development peak, which will make a flip much harder to execute with a good profit, versus when there’s still room for a financial upside. Certain areas of Brooklyn, N.Y., already have reached a saturation level while others still have room for prices to climb, he says.
Build a strong online presence. The clear majority now come to find a listing and a salesperson or broker from searching the internet. So be sure to build a website for yourself, master all the various social media tools to communicate, update your listings online regularly, and get on your company’s web page for extra exposure. It can also be wise to develop a catchy tag line; Boller’s is “Ready. Set. Sell.”
Continue to update your education. There are continuing education classes to take, as well as webinars online and seminars in person if you so desire. Your goal should be to keep mastering new data and numbers related to real estate such as where prices are headed—up, down, or sideways—and your own sales, as well as learning to deal with people and their emotions since those will factor in large to what appeals to them. Global Real Estate Education Network (GREEN) offers many that are very worthwhile in the form of courses, coaches, blog posts, and podcasts.